Hike-way To Hell
How I caused a fire and got "trucker's ass"
By CHRISTINA STOLTZFUS
Blast Oregon Bureau
Bend, Ore. -- Last year at this time I was a thru-hiker on the
Appalachian Trail, or the A.T., for short. I was attempting to hike all
2,158 miles of it in the same year. The six and a half months I spent in
the woods was one of those times in my life that I will always look back
on with fond memories.
Even though I hiked solo, I was by no stretch of the imagination alone on
the trail. Around 4,000 other thru-hikers began the trail last year, so
there was no lack of company unless I made it a point to be alone. Two
friends joined me during the first few days of the trip: Brian, a
high-school friend who talked me into doing it in the first place, and
Tiffany, my roommate who was then on spring break from college.
I hiked the trail south to north, so for me it all began in northern
Georgia, on Springer Mountain in Amacalola State Park. And it ended 13
states later in the central Maine wilderness. Looking back at my novice
days, I found it funny the way I adjusted from life as a
substitute teacher living in suburbia to that of a long-distance hiker.
|"I found it funny the way I adjusted from life as a
substitute teacher living in suburbia to that of a long-distance hiker."
On the first day, I set out with Brian and Tiffany with my 50-something-pound
pack to climb Springer Mountain. I had in no way prepared myself
physically for my long trek and was even a bit out of shape as I made my
way to the top.
I remember thinking how grueling it was and began to question my sanity
in attempting to hike the entire A.T. By the time I reached the top, long
after my friends, I was exhausted, demoralized and doubting myself, yet
excited to be there and willing to inflict more of the same kind of pain
on myself in order to realize my goal.
In the first week of hiking, I learned many things essential to a hiker's
life. Before this trip, my longest forays in the outdoors were weekend
camping trips, so I didn't know much about using lightweight gear or
being environmentally friendly.
My first lesson was how to light my Whisperlite gas stove. First, I was
told to prime it by letting a small amount of liquid fuel drip into the
tiny pan below the burner.Then light it, and as the coil above heats up,
open the gas line. I was then supposed to light the fuel to cook my pasta
That first night, however, I forgot to turn the gas valve off after
priming, and the liquid overflowed the primer cup. When I lit it, the
picnic table beneath it instantly caught on fire, causing everyone around
to grab their belongings off the table in a hurry. I put the fire out
soon enough, but wasn't able to stop all the teasing I got from friends,
both old and newly acquired.
It took a while for my body to adjust to the rigors of trail life. At
first, I didn't notice any pain, other than stiff muscles and hot spots
on my feet that threatened to become blisters. These never became a
problem, as I doctored them immediately. The two most persistent physical
problems were unanticipated but not uncommon, as I soon found out from
|"Once, at a hostel where a friend and I were showering in
adjacent stalls, I heard her scream, 'Oh my God! What's that all over my
The first problem was packrub. This occurred because as I walked, my pack
would chafe my hips. Twenty-four days into my hike, my hips ached so much
that I couldn't sleep on my sides. But that was a minor nuisance compared
to the other, longer-lasting ill effect hiking had on me. I'm referring
to what a friend dubbed as "trucker's ass."
Long distance hikers with traditional backpacks may experience this
condition because of the way the pack is designed to rest on the small of
the back. The pack covers part of the butt, causing it to stay sweaty
throughout the hiking day. Like a trucker who's sitting for long periods
of time, the hiker may develop a disgusting case of ass pimples. That's
Once, at a hostel where a friend and I were showering in adjacent stalls,
I heard her scream, "Oh my God! What's that all over my ass?!"
I started laughing and let her know that she wasn't alone in her
unfortunate situation. What's a hiker-girl to do but grin and bear it and
hope it goes away when she's finished with the hike?
See next issue for more of Christina's adventures on the